মন মন্দিরে|Mon Mandire

by Disha Roy Choudhury

~

Shyama Sangeet, musical dedication to Shyama or Goddess Kali, has long been a part of the tradition of Bengali Devotional Melody. To release an album in the genre today with the hope of reaching out to the listeners is perhaps quite a challenging endeavour in itself–a venture that has borne fruits through the efforts of one of the leading music directors of the industry, Sri Goutam Ghosal, and lyricist Sri Dilip De. The album Taara Naame, released by Cozmik Harmony, reconstructs the tradition by giving it a modern approach in order to appeal to the contemporary audience. Among the ten compositions sung variously by Srikumar Chattopadhyay, Manamoy Bhattacharya, Goutam Ghosal, and Disha Roy Choudhury, Mon Mandire, sung by Disha Roy Choudhury highlights such an attempt.

Click here to listen: https://soundcloud.com/bricolage0987/mon-mandire

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Raven

by Deepak Joshi

~

The ominous croak echoing through the
twilight,
Followed by a winged silhouette
Reaching for the highest chimney.
Hungry eyes scheming, searching for a morsel.
The sharp bill poking between the feathers,
While the shady moon runs behind empty trees.
The sinister wind blowing across the eerie landscape.
The screeching bats declare their empire over the darkness,
While the black shadow retreats in a corner.
The witch’s familiar
now seated on a forked branch,
Crows away to lunacy.
An early lark swishes in a curve around the Gothic skyline
As the raven observes quiet, yet restless.
The devil’s agent, harbinger of death,
Now caught in the earthly web
of the survival of the fittest.

~

Image source: http://fc00.deviantart.net/

अंकल जी

by Prateeksha Pandey

~

तब उनकी उम्र नहीं बढ़ती थी
बस बढ़ता था पेट
सफारी सूट की कमीज़ की बटनों की क़ैद से छूटने को.
वो पैंट की पिछ्ली जेब में रक्खी
भूरे रंग की कंघी को
और सर्दी के मौसम में अपनी बदसूरत
कैन्थ्राइडीन तेल से महकती फर वाली टोपी
हमारे यहाँ
भूल जाया करते थे.
वैसे तो अंकलजी को फुर्सत कहाँ थी
पर रविवार को
धारियों वाले नीले कच्छे में
बड़े गर्व से घर के बाहर दातुन करते थे.
अंकलजी को एक ही दुःख था—
गुप्ता जी का लौंडा साला
अमेरका—
नहीं, यूं.एस. चला गया
पर माता रानी की कृपा देखो
उनके अपने डिम्पी की शादी में
मारुती ज़ेन मिली
और सारे दुःख
दन्न से गायब हो गए.

पर ये कुछ साल पहले की बात है.

अब तो अंकलजी
अपनी आसमानी रंग की प्रिया से
शेक्सपियर की सिक्स्थ एज में आ पहुंचे हैं
खिजाब से झुर्रियां पहले भी नहीं छुपती थीं
पर अब तो अंकल कोशिश भी नहीं करते.

अब तो अंकलजी
बस गर्मागर्म बूंदी खाते हैं
और हर चुनाव में
कमल को वोट दे आते हैं.

~

THE INSIDE STORY: WHY NOT TO READ THE NEWSPAPER REPORTS

by Himanshi Sharma

~

September 23, 2014.

9:00 a.m.

A group of 50 odd students sat down in front of the HoD office, Department of English, demanding a response to their complaint. Some of them were holding freshly hand-made A4 sized slogan sheets, still others were busy preparing more. Sketch pens and markers smoothly coloured the sheets as the others patiently waited. By 9:30 a.m., more students had started arriving and the corridors began to swell with people as the office staff made their way through the crowd. Nothing like a protest had ever taken place in the department before.

Around 250 students had gathered at the protest site by 10:00 a.m. as the office frantically called Professor Sumanyu Satpathy, the Head of Department. The offer to talk on phone was politely but forcefully declined by the students. Gradually, students grew restless with the silence. Those on the front started raising slogans and the crowd took them up. A small march was taken out in the faculty building which concluded as the students settled down where they had originally begun. The demands were then reiterated by a senior student, and an update given to those who were still unaware of the latest developments. 15 minutes later, Prof. Satpathy arrived on the scene, head bent, and eyes on the floor. Without making any eye contact he entered straight into the office. He was given a smooth entry; this was a dharna, not a gherao. A quick meeting took place between the senior faculty and the HoD after which the students were informed that a student-HOD meeting would take place in Room 17.

As the crowd made its way downstairs, the deliberations had already begun. Nobody wanted anybody to screw up. Repeated reiterations of the demand for a GBM took place on the way and the faculty waited for a couple of minutes outside as the students inside the classroom made sure that the only demand made in the ensuing meeting would be for a GBM and all other issues shall only be discussed at that official, documented forum.

 ***

The mock-meeting ended in mini-lectures on social and political structures by the senior faculty members and one line interventions between them by the HOD. But the moment that the demand for a GBM took a real, threatening form as the students unanimously demanded for the GBM and refused to compromise on the refusal for a proper dialogue, he panicked and what he did would perhaps be recorded and remembered as the biggest let down in the department. In front of 250 students and six teachers, all trying to negotiate through arguments and counter-arguments, he walked out. I repeat, our esteemed HOD, Prof. Sumanyu Satpathy walked out on a group of people trying to solve an issue through peaceful dialogue, just 20 minutes into a meeting that HE had called in the first place. Most of us were so shocked that we were rendered immobile by the immensity of the gesture. The authoritarianism, the stark apathy, the inability to lead or take decisions, was far too apparent than had ever been seen.

A few students later witnessed him chiding the only professor who supported the GBM, for “inciting and encouraging” the students. Contrast this lack of internal democracy within the department with the decisions made within the students’ body which uploaded, edited, corrected, revised the draft of the primary complaint as many as 8 times before it was sent out, to make sure that not one sentence could go against the general demands or stray in directions other than academic.

On the spot, and within minutes of the walk-out, the students started a signature campaign for a proper GBM to be held on Thursday. 200 signatures were already on paper within two hours. A group of students meanwhile made their way to the South Campus to get more signatures. By 5 p.m., a petition had already been filed with the HoD requesting him to hold a GBM in the interest of all parties involved. The next day, the demand was refused in an official notice issued by him. Why the head of department would refuse a peaceful dialogue with his students is beyond me.

 ***

There are of course larger questions. Why has a formal enquiry into the matter not been instituted? Was it being delayed this whole time because he thought that the autumn break would dilute the concern? Why have these teachers (two of three) not appeared in the faculty since the complaint? Why have they not issued clarifications/answers/apologies on their own? Why is Prof. Satpathy protecting them? Dr. Anju Gurawa, who did take a “class” after the complaint, seemed to have come for the mere purpose of humiliating the students for having dared to speak. In reply to one student’s request to speak louder because she was not audible enough, she replied and I quote, “It is better that you don’t hear me”. It is one thing to feel bad about being complained against but it is totally different when you come to take a class with the sole purpose of vengeance. Twice she insinuated that the students were recording her lecture (which they were not) and asked them if any of them were journalists disguised as students. It was not only unprofessional but also uncalled for. May I also add that most of the students who had given their numbers to her for academic purposes received messages as late as 2 a.m. in the morning, urging them to join a protest, under the banner of a political group called SAEIG, against a professor who allegedly abused the said teacher’s husband on a social media forum? This misuse of personal numbers of the students is a breach of the student-teach trust, if indeed it can be traced back to her. I must add that currently it is just a conjecture on the part of the students who received these messages and they have no substantial proof to substantiate these allegations.

 ***

We had tried our best to keep the letter crisp and to the point because we did not believe that we could be brushed aside as a pack of liars. In the hindsight, I personally believe that we should have made sure that we reported each little detail that any of us remembered that was at least factually incorrect in the letter, and there was no dearth of these gems, so freely were they showered on us (“Fielding and Lawrence were contemporaries”, “The (sic) Mira’s death (sic) in 1921”, “marriage and family are important for women” and such other sweeping statements). May be that would have convinced them more. But then we were a bunch of idealists who could never fathom that they could be refused a GBM. We thought that raising these things in an official meeting would be a more proper and dignified course of action. Thank you Prof. Satpathy for proving us wrong and introducing us to the big, bad world. We’ve truly grown up in these last few days. For instance, we woke up and dug deeper into the allegations made against the letter. The most popular line used against us was, why were the college students happy with these teachers and only in the faculty have they so been “victimised”? Turns out, one of the teachers is an M. Phil drop out, so she actually has no experience of having taught in college. Please note that some of the senior faculty has as much as 10 years of college experience. The other taught in Bharti College and I would really want people to find out more about her on their own from her ex-students. Reporting it here would make me look vicious even to the most liberal eye.

***

Did the appointment committee even look at the academic credentials of the candidates? Were the principals of the colleges where these teachers last taught ever contacted? How did people with extremely poor language skills end up teaching M.A. students? Was it because somebody assumed they would not question the authority as the existing teachers had been doing especially in the English department? Are there threads of connection between Dr Rochelle Pinto’s resignation, Professor Ashley Tellis’ dismissal from JMC, and these new appointments?

I wonder if there is something more to the story that is far more dangerous for a mere Masters student to be exposed to.

~

Picture by: Tina Das

The DU Disorder and Betrayed Communities

by Himanshi Sharma

~

I have no romantic notions about the excellence of Delhi University and never had. The Departments at the undergraduate level ranged from satisfactory to excellent across the colleges. That we were subjected to a horrifying entrance exam that involved useless mugging up that could virtually be done from any of the dozen guide books available at Patel Chest, by anybody from any department, and which involved very little of what we had been doing these last three years, came as no surprise. After the shoddy implementation of the semester system followed by FYUP, nothing could surprise us, or so I imagined.

The first sight that greeted us as M.A. students, was a medium sized room overburdened with huge swarms of students moving to-and-fro in a desperate bid to find seats, space and oxygen. It was early August, monsoons had not yet arrived and the sickening humidity, the claustrophobic environment, the stink emanating from helpless t-shirts under the Raj-era fans of the colonial building drove many of us out into the open though many of our classmates still held ground. If the North campus had infrastructural problems, the South campus suffered due to the department’s reluctance to provide an independent, efficient, experienced and qualified faculty to the campus even though the seating space and general environment there were much more conducive to learning. That the South campus students started attending classes in the North after the initial few weeks of bad teaching was natural. The space crunch worsened and yet the department continued to function in general apathy, professors continued to take classes (punctured by occasional guilt ridden statements about the state of affairs) and the students continued to religiously take down notes.

***

It is amazing how one can never say that one has been through worse. Despite all the difficulties we faced and continue to face given the absolutely inhuman conditions of our classrooms and bad sound quality of mics that make the struggle for the first row of seats a new battle each day, I can safely say that the department has always been an extremely liberal and democratic space that allows us to bring in new ideas and respects our opinions, even if they sometimes contradict those of the most celebrated people in the sphere of literary studies. The group mentors that we are allocated each semester give us space to work outside the prescribed syllabus and explore our creativity in the available scope of the additional readings that are discussed in these smaller groups.

I cannot comment on whether the new appointments that were made last semester were politically motivated but here is what I can, in my capacity as a student of literature for the last five years can definitely say: the teachers we have lodged a complaint against seriously lack where scholarly knowledge is concerned. The argument of reservation that has been made in several forums is, according to me, a very shallow one. Yes, these appointments were made on reservation seats but we refuse to accept that the department could not find more qualified candidates from within the categories. All the premier institutions of our country follow the reservation system which indicates that the possibility of the department having fewer options is far-fetched. What is alarming is that one of the teachers has only recently finished her M.A. No wonder she is proving incapable of being able to take proper classes. That some of these teachers finish their syllabi in two-three classes and often skip classes without prior information also indicates a lack of commitment. Our concerns, as anybody who has read our letter can easily see, are purely academic and we as students of the university (that many of us have been a part of all these years, and that shaped us to be what we are today) are only trying to maintain the quality and standards that it is recognized for all over the country. Let it be noted that not all of us are Delhiites, and therefore pay a huge amount of money to landladies, in electricity bills, food, water and other necessities when we shift to Delhi for the sole purpose of education. How can we be expected to not be disappointed with comments that were not only plain ignorant but also reeked of latent (and sometimes even overt) racism, sexism, casteism and homophobia? I would also like to draw public attention to the fact that some of these professors mentored my friends and classmates last semester who reported the inability of at least one of them to construct grammatically correct and coherent sentences during the lectures. The IA mentors control 75 out of the total 400 marks. These small groups of students obviously felt scared of lodging a formal complaint but the general dissatisfaction was informally conveyed to the other professors. Even this semester, it is only after two whole months of bad teaching that the majority of the student body decided to rise up. The kind of conspiracy theories being floated around about the signatory students being motivated by ulterior motives under the influence of extra-academic forces are an insult to the intelligence of 200+ fully adult people who signed that document.

The “official” letter had refrained from touching on the personal lives of the mentioned professors but since the knowledge of the apathy of the administration towards one of the freshly appointed faculty as is evident from its refusal to grant her a maternity leave is in the public domain now, I’d like to briefly touch upon that too. I totally condemn the department’s stand on this issue. Maternity leave is a legal right and this gross violation of a basic human right appals me. I would support the teacher in her battle against the administration if she chooses to fight it. However, the basic knowledge of one’s subject: the period a poet belonged to, Oliver Cromwell’s dates, the role of the Reform Bill in Middlemarch, the political undertones in the novel one is teaching in class, the names of the characters, these are things that have nothing to do with one’s position as a new mother. If a teacher believes in biological essentialism and wrongly defines important movements like Realism and Feminism, those are academic concerns. It would be malevolent to twist this to mean something else.

For many of us if not most, the department is often the only egalitarian space available to us. Most of us are women students who are subjected to the in/direct oppressions of a patriarchal society on a daily basis since societies don’t change their opinions overnight. But even apart from that the students in each Masters class, North or South, are a mix of students from different castes, classes, genders, religions, sexual orientations and so on. A rigid societal structure often works against many of us. That we were made to feel marginalized even in a space that was hitherto a haven of sorts, hurts and offends us, and makes us angry. It is a reversal of all that the department stood for. What makes it worse are threats of “punishment” that are being circulated around the social media that have made some of the freshers, especially those who are new to the university and living away from their homes, very, very afraid even as they continue to stand firm. I hope that the coming Monday brings an end to the icy silence our HoD has maintained this whole week.

PS: The views reflected in the article are the author’s own. They should not be construed as representative of the entire batch of signatories.

~

Image source: Anukriti Sharma’s Blog (http://sweetuanukriti.blogspot.in)

Of Coffee and Cigarettes

by Tina Das

~

I had seen her at the protest, and I was blown. Not because she wore incredibly good clothes but because she had the kind of flawed body that had always appealed to me. Through her sweater I could make out the shape of her bra; she had love handles and legs which were not long, in fact her thighs were fleshy, tapering most unflatteringly to slimness below her knees. I knew I wanted her and from her eyes, I was sure, my desire wasn’t unwelcome.

“Hi”, I breathed.

She took off her glasses and said, “Let’s go for chai”. Wow! She sure didn’t wait for me to babble the compulsory, empty niceties. I was only too willing and glad. I offered, ”My flat is nearby. If you don’t mind, we can sit there. It will be warmer and they say I make good tea”.

“Sure”, she said. “Lead me”. They felt like the most sensuous words I had heard in a long time. I was already wet as I started walking behind her. Her ass captivated me- I felt an uncontrollable urge to grab it and pull her towards me in the middle of the road, in the chilly winter dusk, to slap it till she cried out, not in pain but ecstasy. I would tenderly kiss it too, the soft mounds of flesh, which any day, attracted me most in a woman, for reasons quite unknown to me. “Where do I go now?”, she asked. Shit! I had been lost in my fantasy.  I took her hand and we crossed the road. I couldn’t help noticing her walk- it was not what poets wrote sonnets about- brisk and efficient, arms moving in perfect rhythm of utility to her legs. Soon, we were walking the narrow alley that lead to my small one roomed flat. I climbed the stairs and she followed, smoking a cigarette as she did so. I hated smoking- I was highly allergic to dust and smoke of any sort, especially cigarettes; but the sight of her shiny lips tugging at one, made the sweat run in rivulets between my breasts. I fumbled with my lock and finally we were inside. I took off my coat and threw it on the mattress which was my bed. She lowered herself on the bed, looked me directly in the eye and asked, “So, really, do you want to pretend that we are here for tea or we can begin what we both obviously want?”

I think I gaped like an idiot for two minutes and wasted precious time. But not more than that, as I immediately sat down and tasted her lips. She smelt of cigarette and coffee, an intoxicating combination. In the midst of all this, I was reminded of the movie ‘Perfume’, and the protagonist’s ardent desire for the thirteenth elixir, understanding that this smell, of coffee and cigarettes, definitely seemed like one. It was a rare taste, especially since I had never kissed a smoker before, allowing myself access to the warmth of her mouth, which was warming me up too.

I pulled her hair back so that I had better access to her mouth and neck. She made little noises in her throat, making me wetter and threatening an orgasm. I stopped and pulled off her sweater, to reveal breasts straining against her bra. I took it off without much ado, and put my mouth on the dark fleshy mounds, rounded and yet again, radiating that welcome warmth which I crave often on lonely nights- the sheer warmth of a living, breathing body. Her taut nipples tasted like the shot of vodka which travelled burning down the throat, at once heady and tasty. She pulled my head closer, inviting me and I started to bite them, while she let out moan after moan.

She pushed me aside and began taking off her jeans. I too followed suit and soon, we were devoid of clothes. I spread her legs and dug right in. She was incredibly wet and warm, boiling in fact. As I flicked my tongue over her clitoris, her velvety pubic hairs caressed my cheeks and I felt my nipples tighten unbearably. Her fluid was as heady as butter and burnt garlic, making me want to lick her dry. I was desperate for more and so, I pushed two fingers in slowly and repeated it till she was flowing- I could taste the remnants of her periods too, and it excited me more.

I put my hands under her butt and hoisted her slightly, bringing her close. I squeezed both her exquisite cheeks, as I continued my ministrations on her. She soon came, squirting me with her salty liquids. Turning her over I spread her legs, putting my fingers inside the river of her cum and I slapped her butt hard as I kissed her all over her back, nibbling wherever I could feel my lips encounter loose flesh. She kept urging me to slap more as her cheek slowly turned pink and I could feel myself turn wetter.

As soon as I knelt back, she grabbed me and pushed me down on the bed. She left a trail of kisses on my body; her lips cool against my burning body. She put three fingers inside me as she paid rapt attention to my breasts, making me go bonkers. She left a line of hickeys on me, which was deliciously painful. She looked at me in the eye, before lowering her face into my writhing, throbbing vagina. And god, was she good! She flicked her tongue expertly around me as I struggled to control my orgasm. I half hoisted myself to watch her, and watching her fuck me like that was the sexiest thing ever. I didn’t take much time to come apart and she raised her head, her lips dripping with my essence, and looking at me, she licked her fingers and then kissed me, both our tastes mingling, like some exotic cocktail.

We dressed slowly, each basking in the post-sex lethargy. She had lit up a cigarette again and I watched, hooked. I realised I didn’t even know her name. I glanced at her and she said, “Rea”, answering my thoughts.  I smiled, “Asmi”. She took my hand and shook it, “Pleasure to fuck you”, she said with a wicked grin. I laughed, musing that I didn’t do this kind of thing, but boy, was I glad I did. It was a novel, mind blowing, bed rocking experience which wasn’t likely to be pushed into oblivion soon. As she finished dressing, said, “So, will you now let me taste the cup of tea that they say you make so well?” “Sure”, I said and got down to making our first cup of tea.

~

Image source: http://twistedbodyart.blogspot.in/

अस्पताल

by Prateeksha Pandey

~

सफ़ेद दीवारों और हरे पर्दों के बीच
बिस्तरों
कुर्सियों
व्हीलचेयरों
पर पड़े
अलग अलग वज़न के
मांस के लोथड़े—
कुछ कराहते
कुछ बेचैन
कुछ उम्मीद की बोतल चढ़वाते हुए
अपने कष्ट को दूसरों से कमतर आँकते.

फिर भी खिलखिला के हँस सकती हैं
सफ़ेद कोटों में घूम रहीं
जादूगरनियाँ
मानो कह रही हों
“इतने से दर्द से ही डर गए?”

इसी इमारत के अन्दर
पैदा होते और दम तोड़ते हैं
अमीरी और गरीबी
अगल बगल के कमरों में
और कभी
कभी फेंक जाता है बाप
अपनी चौथी बेटी को मरीज़ बनाकर
उसे कभी वापस न ले जाने के लिए

~

image source: The Times (June 20, 2012)

of memories and metaphors